I thought that prison was where I first met you. I was a volunteer. You were clean, clear eyed, sad, but safe. I saw your prison issued clothing, inmate number on your shirt pocket. To be honest, I was initially afraid of you, of all of you, because what kind of women end up in prison? This was all so new… so surreal. The razor wire, the buzzing doors, the officers.

empty room

I had no right to your story. You held the truth of your past in a tight fist. Understandably. Why should you trust us? Who were we to you? And what kind of women willingly walk into a prison? And yet, for some reason, you, who trust no one, began to trust us. Strangers.

I was not prepared for your story. Even one piece of it would be enough to break a person. But there was not just one piece. There were so many. So many crushing events that led to more and more breaking, and it takes my breath away. I go from volunteer to staff, and I never knew a job that involved grieving this way. You write to me. I read your words and I weep. I hold your broken pieces that are now cutting my own heart and I offer them up to God, praying for your healing. Praying for mine.

And quietly, softly, over time, something marvelous begins to happen. It is the part that I could not have imagined. There’s not a class or training for this. It requires something bigger, Someone bigger. I look at my own heart, and I don’t see fear anymore. I see love. Enormous, compelling, earth shattering love, and it overwhelms me. And I know it is not my own. I am getting a look at another Heart entirely. I see God’s heart. For you. And He loves you. And I love you. And it changes me. Every day.

This is not a volunteer opportunity anymore. This is not a job. This is a calling, and I would fight tigers for you. Because I know your story. And it broke me. I didn’t know that for you to be able to heal, I would have to break. Because I have seen your pain. Because I understand why you are here and how you got here. I know what kind of women end up in prison.

I thought that prison was where I first met you. I was wrong. I have seen you before. All of you. I have seen you sleeping under a bridge. I walked to the other side of the street. I have seen you at a homeless shelter. I showered in scalding hot water when I got home. I saw you at an inner city after-school program. I quit volunteering. The neighborhood was too sketchy. I saw you at a stoplight. I locked the doors. I saw you walking the streets at night. I turned away. I saw you. You were not clean. Your eyes were not clear. You were not safe. But it was you. Every time. It was you…before I loved you.

*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here:  The Gospel

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